The coming decades will require unprecedented change in global agri-food systems. Growing and changing demands for food, the impacts of climate change, responding to poverty and hunger, and the rapid decline of natural resources create a set of interconnected factors that mean ‘business as usual’ is not an option if businesses are to maintain secure supplies and food security is to be assured. Innovation and growth in the agri-food sector must focus on how to scale, secure and distribute supplies in an inclusive and sustainable way, and how to do it quickly.
These challenges have already been clearly recognised. Business forums such as WBCSD, WEF and SAI Platform, along with many leading agri-food companies have set forward-looking strategies and ambitious goals. A spate of reports has underscored the need to align growing demands with available resources and ensure economic opportunities for the less wealthy 5–6 billion.
The environmental sustainability of agri-food production has received much attention in the last decade. As the world population grows, mainly among the lower income group, another key sustainability factor will be the ways members of this group are included in business as both producers and consumers. The focus for business is on a secure supply base, and the food security focus is on food availability and accessibility for everyone. In both cases, the common objectives are the need to scale inclusion and productivity gains.
Inclusive business means creating profitable business models and strategies that help drive economic opportunities for those who would otherwise be left behind – small-scale farmers, local agribusinesses and the rural unemployed. In practice, inclusiveness requires the right incentives, the building of trust within supply chains, joint decision-making and the transfer of skills. In the big picture, scaling inclusive agri-business is about creating the investments, assets and incentives so that smaller-scale producers and rural enterprises can be effective partners in the business of sustainably feeding 9 billion people.